Metadata, the non-picture information stored in photo files, can be managed in a number of ways. This article explores the use of Windows Explorer for adding or changing data. When you click Start > Pictures, Windows Explorer opens and shows the contents of your Pictures library. Here I am using Windows 7, however, Windows Explorer is quite similar in Vista. There are several information panes, to manage the metadata, you may wish to show them all.
Click Organize on the menu bar and select Layout. In the sub-menu, click on any of the pane options that do not have a check mark – you may need to do this several times to get them all open. (Note to Vista users: You do not have a Library pane – it will not be used in this article.)
The Details pane, on the bottom, shows the metadata, “details”, along with a few other items. If the pane is narrow only some of the information will be shown. Be sure to drag the border of the Details pane upward enough to show all the items. How much data is shown depends on the picture file. When a photo is clicked, “selected”, the details for that photo are shown in the Details pane.
The above illustration shows the information for the same picture but three different files, from bottom to top: On the bottom the original file is in the camera “RAW” format. The middle file was made with the file conversion option in Windows Live Photo Gallery. A few items are missing in the JPG format. The top photo was made by clipping the image and pasting into Paint, then saving. This process stripped all metadata from the photo. So, as the say on the car lot, “your mileage may vary.”
The information may be modified or added to in the Details pane. As the pointer is moved across the information, its shape changes to a text select pointer when it moves over an item that can be modified. Like this: Clicking in the box opens it for text entry. One of the first things I do after I have brought in a batch of photos from my camera is to select them all and add my name in the Authors field. Yes, this need not be done one photo at a time, but can be done on a number of files at the same time.
When multiple photos are selected – hint: Ctrl-A selects all in the folder – the details pane empties of data. Clicking on Show more details… displays the data for all the photos.
Added data, as shown here, then applies to all the selected photos. A Save button is also displayed to permit adding the information to all the selected files. When multiple files are selected only the data common to all of them is displayed. This makes modifying tags difficult – you may want to do that in Windows Live Photo Gallery as explained in another article. If you have not yet applied any tags to the selected photos, then doing it in Windows Explorer is quite nice. The moment you type the first letter, available tags that contain words starting with that letter are displayed:
You can then select the appropriate tag if it exists, or finish typing a new tag. Click Save to add the data.
Removing existing information is also quite easy. Click on the field, after it opens for editing, click on the information you wish to remove, or select multiple items by dragging the pointer over them, then press the Delete key. Click Save after the operation.
Some of the information fields offer drop-down menus to allow you to change data. These are indicated with tiny arrowheads to the right of the field.
You can then select the data you wish to change to. One field is particularly interesting, the Date taken field. When you click on that a calendar is displayed and you can change the date.
Yes, you can change to a future date. Why you would want to do that is beyond me. One thing you cannot change is the time. In Windows Live Photo Gallery the time a photo was taken can be changed.
Not all metadata fields are shown in the Details pane. You can get to some other fields in the Properties dialog. Right-click on a selected photo (you can do this for multiple photos as well) and select Properties in the drop-down menu then click the Details tab.
As the pointer is moved over the data values, editable details are indicated with a text box containing “Add text” if the field is empty. Information can be added just like in the Details pane of Windows Explorer. Here there are also some drop-down selection boxes for some items. In this dialog many more items can be added, changed, or deleted than are available in the Details pane of Windows Explorer.
This should keep you busy for a while.
This is the third article in a series of four on metadata. The previous articles can be found here:
Metadata: There is more in your photos than meets the eye!
Metadata: Adding information with Windows Live Photo Gallery
The fourth article discusses adding data with a specialized tool.
I\’ve been following this series of articles on metadata, as my new computer will have Window 7. I\’ve been relying on Photoshop Elements to add author and copyright information when I import pictures. I started that procedure only recently though. I\’ll probably add author information to my other pictures one day, using the technique you describe in your article.
Its a good idea to stay away from editing fields that relate to the so called "picture taking conditions". As an example, your screenshot above shows how to alter the value for the metering mode. This is basically tampering with the truth; this value is ONLY set by the camera and reflects the TRUE setting of the camera when the image was shot. Its a bug in the Windows File Explorer, even in Windows 7 – these fields are supposed to be read-only. It applies to a number of fields shown above.
Hans is absolutely correct. Changing the values recorded by the camera is not a good idea. This is true of the date as well. I attempted to show how some of the fields work. My illustration of the metering mode was not a good choice. There are times when, because of other processing, the camera data is lost. Adding such data back in to record the actual values is then a desirable feature. Thank you Hans for your comment.
Where is the meta-data stored? I am just worried if I tag files on my PC, then move them to the file server, the meta-data may not follow…
Not to worry. The meta-data is contained in the same physical file as the image content. It will stay there when copied to other locations. Do be careful with using some tools for uploading or processing files as these tools might affect the meta-data. Also see my post: http://cafeludwig.wordpress.com/2010/11/20/set-photo-gallery-to-remove-sensitive-data-from-photos-prior-to-uploading/
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